Friday, November 15, 2013

The ACSWP, physician-assisted suicide, and leaving the individual to their own value system

The Presbyterian News Service in their article, ACSWP continues work on reports to GA 221, reported that the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), was preparing, among other reports, a paper on “End of Life” issues for the P C (U.S.A.)'s General Assembly. Some of the reports were mandated by previous GAs, however, the “End of Life” paper was not a mandate but a paper the committee felt was necessary.

As PNS reported, Christian Iosso, coordinator of ACSWP, stated that, “The church has said nothing since physician-assisted suicide was legalized by several states and countries.” So this will undoubtedly address that troubling issue. PNS also reported that, “ACSWP member Gloria Albrecht of Detroit, said the drafting team “is looking for a pastoral, not academic, paper because pastors and families are dealing with this every day. Our goal is to give counsel about what’s at stake and to help people faced with these excruciating personal issues make informed decisions based on their values systems.” (Italics mine)

Although it is important for people to be aware of all the facts surrounding end of life decisions, biblically, leaders in the church must point God's people to Scripture rather than letting them flounder in their own value systems. Giving out factual information about physician-assisted suicide, (which could possibly be nonfactual given the values of today’s postmodern society) and then turning away as God's people function within their own private value systems is reminiscent of ancient Israel when she ignored God's laws.

Two times in the book of Judges the text clarifies the atrocities committed by the people with the words, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” The first of these verses (17:6) comes in the midst of a tale of apostate Israelites creating their own god, their own religious system and their own religious leaders; the story contains theft and murder. The second text, (21:25), comes at the end of a long sordid tale of rape and inter-tribal war But there is a King over the church, the Lord has given the word to his people, therefore no one has the right to live by their own personal standards, which no matter how virtuous, in the end, will undoubtedly evolve into sin.

Another Old Testament text, among many, reverses the people's movement toward greater and greater sin. In 2 Chronicles one of the good kings of Judah, Jehoshaphat, send both levites and kingdom officials to teach the people from the book of the law. “They taught in Judah, having the book of the law of the Lord with them and they went throughout all the cities of Judah and taught among the people.” Always it is the leadership of the people of God proclaiming God's word that shapes and molds their lives. Without God's word they are forsaken and left to their own brokenness.

The truth is physician-assisted suicide includes two people—maybe more—the person who kills herself and the other who assists in the killing. So in reality there is the one who commits suicide (who truly needs help but not help to die) and the one who helps—the killer. The commandment is simple, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13)

There are, of course, other end of life issues that are important, but physician-assisted suicide trumps all because without its rejection society slides deeper into a dark maze as it has in the Netherlands and Belgium. [1] (There disabled babies who have no say can be killed.) When the church becomes infected because individual human centered values are honored over the word of God it is a dark world indeed.

The members of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy are preparing to open one more ghastly door in all that troubles the PC (U.S.A.).

[1] See New European coalition formed to fight euthanasia laws

picture by Penny Juncker


will spotts said...

Has the PC(USA) supported physician assisted suicide in previous materials?

(I don't remember any GA doing so, but I couldn't say for certain.)

I'm wondering because, if it hasn't done so in the past, supporting this strikes me as something of a great leap - another of those issues where large numbers of members will be alienated by GA reports (and/or) actions that clash with their beliefs.

Viola Larson said...

Will, Somewhere in my memory there has been a discussion; it may be a report that was defeated during GA but I have to look it up. I just finished reading a report on Belgium and euthanasia by Wesley Smith that is frightening. There is enough information out there to prove the downward movement when a nation starts accepting physician assisted suicide.